Adel Taarabt - a mercurial talent
QPR manager Neil Warnock opted for "talented, exciting and frustrating" when asked to describe his captain Adel Taarabt in three words.
It is the first two qualities that saw the mercurial Morocco international named the Football League player of the year at an awards ceremony in London on Sunday.
The 21-year-old has undoubtedly been QPR's ace in the pack this season as they have built a nine-point lead at the top of the Championship with eight games remaining. He has scored 15 goals and provided at least the same number of assists (the exact figure is the subject of disagreement, with estimates ranging from 15 to 20).
But Taarabt is about so much more that statistics.
He is prodigiously talented; capable of the sort of tricks, turns and long-range strikes that few others would dare attempt, let alone execute. His body-swerves and the mesmerising changes in direction - all pulled off with exquisite close control saw him dubbed the new Zinedine Zidane when he first arrived in England after signing for Tottenham from French side Lens in 2007.
"Adel is the most talented player that I have had under my wing in my entire 30-year management career," said Warnock.
"Many QPR fans have been brought up on the likes of Rodney Marsh and Stan Bowles and, although Adel is not a club legend in comparison, he is similar in terms of ability."
Taarabt himself readily admits that many of his slaloming, weaving runs are purely instinctive. "I do not think about it, I just do it," he said. "It is a gift from God."
Warnock was so convinced about Taarabt's worth that he built a system to accommodate him. Rangers have lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation this season, with Taarabt given a largely free role as one of the three forwards behind a lone striker, usually Heidar Helguson or Rob Hulse. Taarabt has virtually no defensive responsibilities (as the graphic below shows), with team-mates told that they will be fined if they pass to him when he is in his own half.
"We have got to have some restrictions or he would be taking goal kicks if we let him," added Warnock.
Holding midfielder Shaun Derry plays behind Taarabt and has the best view in the house to watch and admire his team-mate.
"There have been times this year when even though I have been playing in games I have felt like a supporter," said veteran Derry.
"When we have needed a bit of magic to get back into a game, he has given us a bright spark by either scoring or creating a goal.
"In this division you look for individual talent that can singlehandedly change games and you cannot look further than Taarabt."
He is viewed as a luxury player and although he is QPR's captain it is Derry who is the principal on-field organiser. Taarabt can also be frustrating when Rangers are attacking, ignoring the obvious and sensible pass, instead losing possession after trying to beat several opponents.
"You've got to kind of disregard him at times," added Derry. "He will be in the attacking third when we are defending for our lives and you cannot rely on him in that sense.
"You have to bite your tongue at certain times but he is the maverick in our team. I have never played with anyone quite like Adel - he is a one off."
Taarabt has a reputation as being slightly petulant and sulky, the spoilt little kid who will take his ball home if he does not get his own way. He angrily kicked a water battle after he was substituted at Ipswich earlier in the season. Against Hull in January he lazily wandered around the pitch, making it clear to everyone that he did not want to play and wished to be taken off.
Warnock's predecessors Jim Magilton and Paul Hart struggled to assimilate him into the Rangers team and could not cope with his perceived poor attitude. At Tottenham, former manager Juande Ramos did not even give him a squad number, while Harry Redknapp was happy to loan him to Rangers, with the move made permanent last summer.
He had played in every Championship match before missing Saturday's defeat of Doncaster after a family bereavement.
The way Warnock has created an environment that has allowed Taarabt to flourish is arguably one of the finer achievements of the straight-down-the-line, tell-it-like-it-is Yorkshireman.
"When you have got someone like Adel then as a manager you are tempted to focus on what he cannot do, whereas I have focused on what he can do," said Warnock.
"It has been a great challenge but I think we are both seeing the benefits of it, of having a little bit of perseverance and showing confidence in him."
Taarabt himself readily acknowledges a debt of gratitude to Warnock.
"I will never have a manager like him again," said Taarabt. "I do not have family over here but he is a manager who treats me like his son.
"[Before I signed] he was calling me every day saying that he wants to help make me one of the best players in the world. If I do not play so good for two or three games he tells me not to worry, that I will be playing the next game.
"He has given me confidence and changed my life."
Taarabt sounds like a young man who needs to be loved and reassured if he is to flourish - and it seems that Warnock is reaping the rewards for embracing the rare talent that he has at his disposal.
Derry, a steely, no-nonsense player, joined Rangers last summer and admits that in the earlier months of this campaign he would yell at Taarabt when the Moroccan was greedy or took a selfish option.
"I realised that to get on with him you have got to get him on his level and in the best possible sense he like an overgrown child - all he wants is to get ball and excite people."
Taarabt has excited Rangers supporters and neutrals alike all year - and Warnock is working on refining his talent ahead of what is looking increasingly likely to be a Premier League campaign next season.
Warnock expects to stick with the same 4-2-3-1 system but will change the parameters of Taarabt's role. This season Rangers have been able to largely deal with the times when Taarabt has needlessly squandered possession but the Premier League will not be so forgiving.
Taarabt has shown that he is capable of flourishing in the second tier but the top flight will present an entirely different challenge for the mercurial talent and his manager.